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What Parents Can Learn From a Mom in One of the Least Stressed Cities in the US

Photograph by Twenty20

I can now pat myself on the back because my parenting style has just been validated with a study by WalletHub. They ranked 150 cities according to their stress levels (including family-related) and I was proud to see Minneapolis in the top 10 when it comes to low stress overall. We are one of the healthiest places to live in the United States. Our cities are littered with trails, parks and lakes.

And I can’t wait to have my daughter experience it. But to give her the best experience, I have to push her away from today's overwhelming world and expectations.

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I am in the generation of kids who grew up with a corded phone and now play on iPhones. I grew up listening to tapes and then CDs and now having more 8,000 songs on my handheld iPod. I used to have a collection of DVDs as a teenager and now we watch Netflix and have started storing movie files on the media server. (Whatever that is—I married a techie.)

So I understand how fast and seemingly boundless things can be.

I want to raise her in that simpler time ... even when the world around us continues to be overbooked and competitive.

But I also grew up in a household where family dinners were every night, not just on Sundays. My parents, instead of paying thousands of dollars for their three young children to be in five different activities, took us to the airport to watch the planes take off on a Saturday morning. (How things have changed, haven’t they?) We rode our bikes after dinner as a family to different parks, my dad sometimes toting along the oversized camcorder to capture those memories that my sisters and I still watch every so often today. We finished homework after school and then spend the evening until it was time to go to bed outside. My middle sister and I played “Poor People” where we foraged for “food” (usually a stolen piece of bread out of our kitchen) and made pretend fires along the wooded side of our house. I realize now that the whole game probably wasn’t so politically correct for this day and age, but here is the thing: We were using our imaginations. We were playing in our neighborhood. I could go on and on. The memories are endless.

Now I am a mother to an 8-month-old baby girl. She is still very young, but we know as parents how time flies, and soon I will blink and she will be in kindergarten. The time will come, sooner than I expect, when she will be the age where the family chaos begins in so many American families. After-school (and before school) sports, weekend tournaments, clubs, practices, fast-food drive thrus and increasing technology. And I’m not saying that what these families are doing are wrong by any means. Sports are great for kids, both for the physical activity and the socialization.

But I see my husband and I raising our daughter differently. We worked so hard for her. We struggled for six years to have her and I can’t wait to live our life with her as a family. I want to raise her in that simpler time, even thought we're currently in an age of fast-paced life and technology. I want to put her in one sport or activity, to spend time as a family and to eat our dinner together—sitting at our table even when the world around us continues to be overbooked and competitive.

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If your city falls high on family-stress, if you are overbooked and feel like your family has little quality time, consider some changes. Drop some activities, especially the ones where weekends dictate where you spend your time. Understand your kids will still thrive without them. Look for races that your family can participate in together, or local family fun days.

Let your kids play. And dare I say this, let them be bored on occasion. That’s sometimes how the best memories are created for them.

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